Feb 26, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
After years of getting beat up by its close neighbors to the south, the Solvay boys basketball team had the rare chance to beat Westhill twice in the span of a month – and knock them out of the Section III Class B playoffs, too.
Alas, the Warriors were having none of those plans. Aiming to defend both its sectional and state titles from 2010, the no. 3 seed Warriors toppled the no. 11 seed Bearcats 71-52 in Friday night’s Class B quarterfinals.
Just up the road, no. 4 seed Bishop Ludden did not survive the Class B quarterfinal round as no. 5 seed Bishop Grimes, getting an exceptional effort from senior Mike Stone, eliminated the Gaelic Knights 55-49.
No doubt, Westhill had remembered how, three weeks earlier, Solvay had beaten them 59-55 despite 29 points from Nathan Nigolian – mainly because the Bearcats’ 6-7 senior center, Dan Aiello, had dominated in the paint with 29 points and 14 rebounds.
The memory of that defeat gave the Warriors extreme motivation – and that, combined with all of its post-season experience, led to a flawless start when it met Solvay again.
Westhill’s pressure defense forced turnovers – and conversions on the other end meant that, after one period, the Warriors already owned an 18-7 lead, poised to turn the game into a runaway.
Solvay made sure that, at least for a while, the runaway didn’t happen. Aiello again found room inside to convert, working his way to 23 points as, on the perimeter, Deon Knighton-Kearse gained 17 points. Together, they kept Solvay within sight in the game’s middle stages and, as the fourth quarter started, Westhill only led 49-43.
The Warriors didn’t panic, though, and instead closed out Solvay with an emphatic fourth-quarter effort. Kevin McAvoy, coming off a 24-point performance in the first-round win over Clinton, stayed hot as he hit on several late shots and finished with 25 points this time.
Part of the getaway had to do with the fact that Westhill had three go-to guys on the offensive side. Nigolian, though not as productive as the last Solvay meeting, chimed in with 16 points, while Justin Biles stepped up for 15 points. Between them, McAvoy and Nigolian made 13 successful free throws as the Warriors improved to 15-5 and Solvay finished its season at 9-11.
Bishop Ludden, meanwhile, was taking solace from the fact that, as the no. 4 seed in Class B, it was facing no. 5 seed Bishop Grimes on its home court – the same place where it had beaten the Cobras 56-54 on Dec. 22.
But Grimes had won the rematch 64-51 on Feb. 4 – and it had Stone, the senior star capable of completely taking over a game. That, in the end, would cause Ludden’s downfall.
It didn’t happen in the first half, though. The Gaelic Knights got the tempo to its exact liking as it kept Grimes from running as much as it wanted. Meanwhile, Ludden’s offense settled in after a shaky start and, by halftime, had forged a 22-22 tie.
What followed in the third period was quite stunning. The Gaelic Knights stayed productive – but could not stop Stone, who managed to record all 19 of Grimes’ points in those eight minutes to push his team in front, 41-36, with one period left.
Somehow, Ludden kept its focus and, in the fourth quarter, made its big run behind Tyler Young, who hit on a career-best six 3-pointers to account for all of his 18 points as Casey Ganley (11 points), Dan Kaigler (nine points) and Kelly Beaudoin (seven points) offered the main help.
Yet every time it was required, Stone would hit another clutch shot to keep his team in front, including a 3-pointer in the final minute as he finished with 29 points overall, with Mike Sugamosto adding 12 points and Casey Evans getting eight points. Ludden finished its season with a record of 14-6.
In the Class B semifinals, Westhill and no. 10 seed Marcellus clash Wednesday night at Onondaga Community College at 8 p.m., a night after the other semifinal between Grimes and top seed Skaneateles. The winners advance to the final at 4:30 Saturday at Utica Memorial Auditorium.